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Tips & tricks for late-fall fishing in Vilas County


  • Article
  • Fall
  • Fishing
  • Lakes & Rivers

There’s still time to track down some trophy fish in the Northwoods of Wisconsin this fall. Here’s what you should know before you head out.

Fall fishing in Vilas County Wisconsin

There’s still time to track down some trophy fish in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Head to Vilas County for a quiet getaway on the lake—here’s what you should know before you head out to hunt the big one.

Know the rules

Wisconsin’s general inland fishing season runs through March 7, 2021, and that applies to northern pike and walleye, fishing too. If you’re fishing for musky, the season runs through December 31, 2020, on open water in the Northern Zone (where Vilas County is located). See more information on fishing season dates on the Wisconsin DNR website.

You’ll also need a fishing license (unless you’re younger than 15, were born before 1927 or are active-duty military on furlough or leave) to cast your line in Vilas County’s waters. There are lots of options for licenses for both in-state and out-of-state visitors—see more information from the Wisconsin DNR here.

Find a lake

This is the easy part when you’re in Vilas County—we’ve got more than 1,300 fish-filled lakes to explore, from postage-stamp-sized ponds to immense flowages that cover thousands of acres. Vilas County is home to one of the largest collections of freshwater lakes in the world, so there’s no shortage of public-access lakes to choose from.

Here are a few popular fishing spots in Vilas County:

  • Big St. Germain Lake
  • Fence Lake, Lac du Flambeau
  • Lac Vieux Desert, Land O’ Lakes
  • Plum Lake, Sayner-Star Lake
  • Trout Lake, Boulder Junction

No boat? No problem! Vilas County has lots of places to fish from shore or accessible piers. Here are just a few lakes that offer this helpful amenity:

  • Presque Isle: Big Horsehead Lake, Little Horsehead Lake, Oxbow Lake
  • Boulder Junction: Upper Gresham Lake
  • Sayner-Star Lake: Star Lake
  • Manitowish Waters: Rest Lake

Track down a trophy catch

Fall is a great time for fishing in the Northwoods. You won’t find as much competition on the lake as you would in the summer months, and the fish are hungry as they fatten up for winter. Here are some general guidelines on how to track down certain types of fish in the Northwoods in the fall.

  • Bass: Crankbaits and jigs work well for smallmouth and largemouth; use minnow-like colors for your bait and fish in the deeper water near rocky points
  • Walleye: Use a jig and a nightcrawler to catch good-sized walleye, focusing on deeper break lines during the daytime; once the water temperature dips below 40 degrees, the fish move to deeper holes
  • Panfish: Crappie and bluegill will hang out by the weeds and respond to slip-bobbers and live bait or spinners and crankbaits (which also might garner some hits from northern pike)
  • Musky: Vilas County’s most famous fish tend to hang out along the weeds in early fall and respond to bucktails, but by later fall, you’ll find them hitting on jerk baits at about 10 feet

Need a home base for your fishing adventures? Book a stay at a Vilas County motel, resort, cabin or vacation home and enjoy your stay!